The Metaphor of "Fighting" Cancer

This is a repost of something I wrote last year and it is still so much in my mind and heart.

I have started 5 new posts in the past few weeks but somehow haven't been ready to finish any of them. And then today a dear friend sent me Having Cancer is Not a Fight or a Battle written by Kate Granger for the Guardian. The use of fighting language for people with cancer has long been a pet peeve of mine so here I go – hopefully not too much of a rant.

He "lost his battle to cancer". She "put up a valiant fight". We know these words. But why do we use this language? Is it useful? I am sure it's not. I told my friends that these words best not appear in my obituary or I would come back to haunt them.

There is no doubt that living with cancer – or with any acute, chronic or life-threatening illness – asks a lot of us. We want to be able to dig down and find the courage to face some unbelievably sad, painful or simply awful circumstances. We want to push our feelings aside so we can do what needs to be done and keep going. We want to keep the people around us from being discouraged, weepy or anxious (even when we are). Unfortunately, the reality of our circumstances do not truly lend themselves to the mantras of "fight" or "be positive".

We live in a world that seems to divide life between good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. But this is a false dichotomy that just helps us feel better about the side we think we are on. We all too often forget that the other "side" is just a mirror of our own shortcomings, biases, etc. So, too, with unwanted illness: It is not an either/or proposition, but a nuanced and complex journey.

It cannot be useful for us to reject a part of ourselves – whether our own cancer cells or our own feelings. I am convinced that the true challenge is to embrace all of our experience. We need to accept the reality of our illness and to be open to what that means – even if it suggests death is near. We also need to accept that we can thrive now: We can take active steps for our physical, mental and emotional health. No outcome on a date certain can be guaranteed – no matter what anyone says.

Our task is to embrace all that is here – wanting it to be different while recognizing what is present now. The feelings that arise (fear, anxiety, sadness) and the ones we may need to cultivate at the same time (gratitude, love, safety).

I know the size of this task first-hand. And perhaps, because I am an optimist by nature, what I have to say may not be of use to you. But even as I want to make lemonade from lemons, I have struggled not get lost in a pity party, feelings of despair, and such.

Breathe2Change is all about the how of helping you find your path to be present with what is now – even the unwanted stuff – and open to gratitude and possibility and fullness in this moment. And as I support you in your journey of discovery I keep myself connected to the vibrant power of shared connection and the power of the present.